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IT Best Practice Frameworks


Let's start with ITIL as its so popular and is really the accepted DNA of service management environments.

ITIL & The Help Desk in ITIL Version 4

ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) remains the most widely used framework for defining best practices in IT service management, even under the ITIL version 4 framework. It continues to establish a common language and processes that nearly all organizations use when discussing IT support and services.

While ITIL isn't the sole framework available, it remains the common language spoken by virtually every Help Desk, IT manager, and vendor, whether they are consciously aware of it or not.

While much of the terminology and process structure aligns with ITIL, organizations often customize it to suit their specific needs, ensuring it's a practical fit for their operations.

Introducing ITIL

ITIL, in its version 4, still stands as a globally recognized framework of best practices for managing and delivering IT services. It emphasizes aligning IT services with the needs of businesses and organizations. Originally developed by the UK government's Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA), ITIL has evolved into comprehensive guidelines that organizations use to optimize their IT service management (ITSM) practices.

The Advantages:

  • ITIL version 4 continues to provide a standard language and approaches for IT service management.

  • It has evolved over the years with extensive thought and review.

  • It remains scalable and adaptable, catering to the needs of both small businesses and large enterprises.

  • Training accreditations, especially in the UK, retain their value.

The Challenges:

  • ITIL version 4 can still appear overwhelming when first introduced.

  • Explaining the workings and benefits of ITIL to staff can sometimes lead to disinterest.

  • The reference materials can be extensive, taking up significant shelf space.

  • Higher-level training qualifications can require considerable effort to attain.

The Structure of ITIL Version 4

In ITIL version 4, the framework retains its structure around a service lifecycle, consisting of five core stages, each with specific aspects of IT service management (ITSM):

Service Strategy

  • Service Portfolio Management: Defines and maintains the organization's service portfolio in alignment with business objectives.

  • Financial Management: Manages budgeting, accounting, and charging for IT services to ensure cost-effectiveness.

  • Demand Management: Balances the demand for IT services with available resources and capacity.

  • Business Relationship Management: Builds relationships with business stakeholders to better understand and meet their needs.

Service Design

  • Service Catalog Management: Develops and maintains a comprehensive service catalog.

  • Service Level Management: Establishes and maintains service level agreements (SLAs) to ensure services meet performance standards.

  • Capacity Management: Ensures IT resources are sufficient to meet current and future service demands.

  • Availability Management: Optimizes IT service availability to meet business requirements.

  • Continuity Management: Develops and maintains plans for restoring IT services quickly following disruptions or disasters.

  • Security Management: Protects IT services and supporting infrastructure from security threats.

Service Transition

  • Change Management: Manages and controls IT service and infrastructure changes to minimize risk and ensure stability.

  • Configuration Management: Maintains accurate information about IT assets and their relationships.

  • Release and Deployment Management: Plans, tests, and deploys new or updated IT services into the production environment.

Service Operation

  • Incident Management: Manages and resolves incidents to minimize disruptions and maintain service quality.

  • Problem Management: Identifies and resolves the root causes of recurring incidents to prevent future occurrences.

  • Event Management: Monitors and responds to events affecting IT services, ensuring timely resolution or escalation.

  • Request Fulfillment: Processes and fulfills user service requests, such as access to resources or information.

Continual Service Improvement (CSI)

  • CSI in ITIL version 4 continues to focus on the ongoing measurement, analysis, and improvement of IT service quality and performance. It involves identifying areas for improvement, implementing changes, and monitoring their impact to ensure the continuous enhancement of IT services.

ITIL & The Help Desk

While ITIL version 4 maintains a broad spectrum of practices across the IT service lifecycle, certain aspects are of particular interest to the Help Desk. These aspects align with ITIL's core processes:

Incident Management: ITIL version 4's incident management process directly aligns with the primary function of a Help Desk, which is to manage and resolve incidents and user issues. This process streamlines incident handling for faster and more consistent resolution.

Request Fulfillment: ITIL version 4's request fulfillment process supports the Help Desk's role in processing and fulfilling user service requests, ensuring a timely and efficient response to user needs.

Event Management: ITIL version 4's event management process enables a Help Desk to proactively monitor and respond to events that may impact IT services, allowing them to address potential issues before they escalate into incidents.

Problem Management: ITIL version 4's problem management process aids the Help Desk in identifying and addressing the root causes of recurring incidents, reducing the overall workload and preventing future occurrences.

Service Catalog: Ownership of a service catalog, especially its customer-facing view, often falls within the purview of the Help Desk. When it's not assigned to someone else, it's suggested that the Help Desk takes on this responsibility because of their keen interest in clarifying the services offered to both themselves and customers.

Service Level Management: Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are often defined, monitored, and reported on by the Help Desk, both internally to senior leadership and externally to customers. While other teams or individuals may own this, it is commonly assumed to be a responsibility of the Help Desk.

In ITIL version 4, these elements remain crucial to the primary activities of a Help Desk, and their alignment with the framework is officially recognized. The processes within Service Operation often overlap with those in Service Design, emphasizing the integration of ITIL principles throughout the service lifecycle.

Other IT Best Practice Frameworks

There are numerous other approaches.

Here are a couple of the more well-known ones so that you can nod sagely if they are ever mentioned;


Control Objectives for Information & Related Technologies (COBIT) is a framework for IT governance and management that aims to align IT processes with business objectives. It provides a comprehensive set of guidelines and best practices for organisations to improve their overall performance and control of their IT functions.

ISO 20000

This international standard for IT service management, ISO 20000, specifies the requirements for an organisation to deliver managed IT services effectively. It aligns closely with ITIL principles and provides a formalised and measurable approach to IT service management.

The following is a high-level summary of the similarities and differences between them. I recommend learning more about these if you feel a more rigid framework is needed for guidance, assessment or auditing.




ISO 20000


IT Governance and Management

IT Service Management

IT Service Management

Primary Goal

Align IT processes with business objectives

Optimise IT service delivery and support

Establish a formalised and measurable ITSM system


Covers the entire IT organisation

Primarily focuses on IT service delivery and support

Specifies requirements for IT service management




International Standard


40 Governance and Management Objectives

34 ITSM practices (ITIL 4)

14 Service Management System (SMS) processes


COBIT Foundation, Implementation, and Assessor

ITIL Foundation, Managing Professional, Strategic Leader, and Master

ISO 20000 accreditation for organisations, individual auditor/consultant certifications


It can be adapted to fit organisations of varying sizes and industries

Highly flexible and adaptable, it can be used with other frameworks

It can be applied to organisations of all sizes and industries


It can be integrated with ITIL and other frameworks

It can be integrated with COBIT, PRINCE2, Agile, DevOps, etc.

It can be combined with ITIL, COBIT, and different IT management approaches.


Great for short, sharp descriptions of services, KPIs, etc. More like a recipe book of what should / could be in place.

It offers a comprehensive IT governance framework encompassing a broader scope of IT management and control.

In-depth, with a lot of text and supporting narrative to help organisations improve their practices. It can also overwhelm you.

Once learnt, it can be adapted to most organisations regardless of size.

Great if you want an external audit and someone to review records and identify areas of non-compliance. Ultimately awards you with a certificate of compliance, which could be valuable for some organisations. Almost all ISO standards are hard work to interpret and implement thoroughly.

Now I feel confused. Which one should I use?

None, all, whatever you want.

ITIL is a great framework that everyone attempts to copy and simplify.

COBIT is much more a tick list of processes, roles & responsibilities and matrix management. It says much about the 'what' but not the 'how'.

ISO 20000 is excellent if you want someone to certify your capabilities and undertake ongoing audits, which can help underpin maturity. However, it is more than just a help desk, it does stretch across functions and processes, so it is a commitment from the entire IT team.



I believe in the value of understanding these things and having a 'reference book' of good practice, so if you are looking for advice here, I'd suggest ITIL and a blend of Service Operation & Service Design.

It's always valid to rip up the book and toss it out the window, bend the rules, and apply things your way IF you have a frame of reference and understand what best practice looks like.



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